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Live blogging State Opening of UK Parliament

by Gary J Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:17:33 AM EST

The State Opening of Parliament is about to start.

This is something like the State of the Union speech in the United States, but much grander (in a Ruritanian sense). Essentialy the Queen reads a speech written by her Ministers listing the legislative programme for the next year.

The Queen is approaching Parliament in the Australian State Coach (horse drawn with cavalry escort).

There is an innovation this year as the Lord Speaker (new office) is going to greet the Queen instead of the Lord Chancellor who used to preside over the Lords.

11.15 National anthem being played as coach arrives.  

11.18 Queen gets out of coach. Heralds going up staircase.

11.19 Procession of Lord Privy Seal (Jack Straw), Lord Chamberlain (Marquess of Cholmondeley), Earl Marshall (Duke of Norfolk), Lord Chancellor (with the speech in a golden bag), Black Rod etc.

11.21 Queen in robing room, to put on even fancier dress for the ceremony.

by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:22:25 AM EST
11.24 Speaker Martin processes into the House of Commons, for prayers.

Black Rod in central lobby waiting for Lord Chamberlain to wave his rod as a signal for Blach Rod to summon the Commons to the House of Lords (monarchs do not go to the House of Commons since the famous incident in the seventeenth century when King Charles I tried to arrest five members.

by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:28:27 AM EST
Not that anyone bears a grudge for hundreds of years...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:39:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
11.35 Commons door shut in his face.


Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:51:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
11.31 Lord Chamberlain, emerged with long white stave in hand. Fanfare.

11.32 Queen, wearing Parliamentary robe and Imperial State Crown, walks with Duke of Edinburgh into the Princes Room. Dignatiries in procession. Cap of maintenance and sword of state positioned by the throne,

11.24 Queen sits on thrown

Black Rod off to the Commons chamber

by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:35:19 AM EST
by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 07:02:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
11.35 Commons door shut in his face. Knocks on door with the black rod. Admitted then delivers the Queen's command for them to attend her in the House of Peers.

MPs make way to House of Lords (to stand at the bar of the House to listen to the speech)

11.38 Speaker arrives

by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:39:07 AM EST
Speech: Challenges, stable economy, sound public finances, strong stable communities, terrorism, victims of crime, ID cards, new powers police for violent crime, improve offenders supervision, new powers serious crime, further powers immigration, powers to deport, trials without juries for serious fraud, reform tribunal system, change qualifications for judicial appointments, climate change bill, reform of public service, to reform welfare reduce poverty, improve child support, pensions, free travel pensioners, education reform raise standards, reform further education system, modernisation of health care, framework to treat mental disabilities, draft regulations embryos, public transport, legislation on consumer advocacy and estate agents, reform institutions, work for consensus on House of Lords and bring forward proposals, more powers Mayor London, government statistics, work closely devolved institutions in Scotland and Wales, try to revive devolution in Northern Ireland, peace in the Mid East work for lasting settlement and support Iraq and Afghanistan, UN and EU to prevent WMD - North Korea and Iran, EU, strengthen NATO, modern UN, Doha talks, Africa - Dhafur, strong partnership Europe and USA.

Pretty routine for Tony Blair, many of the topics are the same every year.

by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 07:00:28 AM EST
Anyone who wants more detail than my notes on the speech can look at the full text on the BBC site.


by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 07:07:04 AM EST
That's not a speech, that's a shopping list.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 07:22:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a disconnect between the glamorous setting of the state opening and the prosaic nature of the Gracious Speech, which is indeed a laundry list of proposed legislation.
by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 06:48:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what happens at these sessions after the actuall Speech? Is there a debate? Does it have substance?

You have likened the Queen's speech to the US' "state of the Nation" address. That one (at least in recent years when I have paid attention) has mostly consisted of a patriotic speech by the President to standing ovations from the assembled Congress, and little actual debate.

In Spain we have a "State of the Nation Debate" (I think the official name is "Debate on general policy" [Debate de política general]) which consists of a speech by the PM followed by answers and counter-answers (two rounds) from each of the parliamentary groups in the parliament and from each of the individual MPs in the "mixed group", the whole thing taking two full days.

This Queen's speech seems to have less political substance than the average Spanish King's Christmas-eve TV address.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 03:34:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Following the Queen's speech there is a multi-day debate, in theory to decide on Parliament's reply thanking the monarch for making the speech.

The debate starts with a general discussion of the programme of the government and then spends time on each subject area.

The highlight so far is Tony Blair likening the Opposition Leader to a fly weight boxer who is going to be knocked out when he fights Labour's next heavyweight leader. This is being seen as a sort of endorsement of Gordon Brown. Brown seemed to think so anyway, as he patted Blair's shoulder as he sat down.

A commentator (Gordon Brown's biographer) on a BBC programme I saw seemed to think Blair was just going through the motions and that Cameron was really eager to see the end of the Blair era and taken on Brown.

There may be some unreality about the whole debate, because when Brown becomes Prime Minister he will probably see political advantage in dropping Blair's daft ideas and replacing them with his own silly plans.

The other big political story of the day (perhaps soon to be of the century) is that Yates of the Yard (the man investigating the cash for peerages scandal) has sent a letter to a Parliamentary committee to say he is making good progress, has strong evidence that has not yet been publicly revealed and hopes to send papers to prosecuting lawyers in January.

Frenzied speculation is that if Blair is questioned under caution (i.e. that he is a suspect in the criminal investigation not just a witness), let alone if he is arrested (prior to questioning, as is the standard police procedure) then this might cause an earlier resignation than Blair currently hopes.

by Gary J on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 08:34:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow. The strength of traditions is incredible. Impressed.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey
by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 01:29:00 PM EST
If anything I underplayed the ceremony. Even so things have been played down in recent years. We no longer have elderly gentlemen walking backwards in front of the Queen (so as not to turn their back on the sovereign).

I also did not note the gorgeous robes of the heralds, the uniforms of the officers of state and the red Parliamentary robes (with appropriate bits of animal fur attached to indicate how grand the peer is) of the Lords in attendance (who get to sit in the monarchs presence, unlike the Commons who have to stand).

I refer you to the Wikipedia article for more details of the preposterous events, most of which have deep historical roots and symbolic importance. I see the Imperial State Crown gets brought to Parliament in its own coach - but does that sort of thing not happen in all modern democracies.


by Gary J on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 07:08:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain doesn't have anything of the sort. Must not be a fully functioning modern democracy. ;-)

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 07:11:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A revolution every generation or two probably sweeps away the traditions of the ancien regime. Since England/Great Britain/UK has not had a revolution for more than 300 years (and the revolutionaries of 1688/89 were conservative aristocrats deeply attached to tradition) the constitutional cobwebs never got swept away.

Things just accumulated over the centuries and were woven into a tapestry of custom. For example the ceremonial inspection of the cellars is not a real security measure. It is just that as the authorities found Guy Fawkes and some barrels of gunpowder down there in 1605, it became traditional for people in strange historic costumes to always go and check the cellars before the State Opening of Parliament. No doubt they lovingly recreated the cellars after the old Palace of Westminster burnt down in the nineteenth century, so that the ceremony could go on unchanged.

by Gary J on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 08:51:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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